(pic courtesy of theSun)
IN just a week, Datuk Seri Najib Razak would have been prime minister of Malaysia for exactly a year. Twelve months down the line and all I really want to ask him is, “Will the real Najib please stand up?”
After all, we know that the sixth premier of Malaysia is intelligent and competent. Definitely not clueless. And so, when Najib-speak doesn’t quite match up to what’s really happening on the ground, one really has to wonder. Is Najib-speak for real? Is Najib for real? And if there are discernible discrepancies between the projected Najib and the real Najib, what exactly is Najib all about?
As a journalist of more than 15 years, the straw that broke the camel’s back for me came last week. At a press award ceremony on 19 March 2010, Najib took the opportunity to declare that it was grossly unfair to state that Malaysia lacked press freedom.
Those working in the Malaysian media should know better…
Now, those of us who work in the media, even in the government-owned or Barisan Nasional-linked media, know that if Najib were Pinocchio, he would have needed corrective plastic surgery the minute he said that.
The fact is, there have been ample instances where it was clear that the government, under the previous and the current administration, curbs press freedom. One just needs to read The Nut Graph‘s compilation of these instances to know that Najib’s nose would have grown long indeed at that award ceremony.
But more startling than the disconnect between what’s been happening and Najib’s declaration is this: It’s been barely a month since both The Star and China Press were both issued show-cause letters under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA). Now, surely, Najib, who has been in government for half his life, is aware of the PPPA. And surely, he knows that under the PPPA, the home minister can suspend or shut down a newspaper’s operations with no legal recourse. And that was why those show-cause letters to The Star and China Press were so troubling.
(pic by Tara Sosrowardoyo)
Indeed, it isn’t surprising that columnist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir was spiked by The Star, and one hears even columnist Zainah Anwar’s column has been held back pending word about the paper’s publishing permit.
For certain, self-censorship is one strategy that the media the world over uses in order to survive governments that would restrict an independent and free press. And so the fact that the No.1 English daily in the country has to resort to self-censorship in order to ensure its survivability just reeks of media control by the government.
And so I wonder, did Najib not know about these recent incidents? Was he badly advised by his aides? Did he forget? What can we surmise from his bold declaration that Malaysia enjoys press freedom and responsibility that the world’s media can learn from?
Here is what I think: Either our prime minister was clueless or he wasn’t. And if he wasn’t, and I’m wont to think that this prime minister is sharper than some others we’ve had, then Najib was being disingenuous. Or he was lying. Either way, it would be hard to trust a person who was being either.
Hishammuddin Hussein (pic courtesy of theSun)But apart from Najib’s big, bold statement about the state of Malaysia’s media, how else do we measure what this prime minister is all about a year into his administration?They say that we can tell a person’s character from the company she or he keeps. By the same token, we can tell what a prime minister is all about by who she or he appoints and keeps in the cabinet.
And unfortunately for Najib, the company he keeps in cabinet is less than inspiring.
Najib’s home minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, is not only incompetent but also sanctions violence through his actions and inactions. Indeed, Hishammuddin also defended the caning of three Muslim women under syariah law for “illicit sex” just six months after Najib decried the use of syariah caning in the case of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno.
“#yorais” is still being used on Twitter to make fun of
the information ministerThe prime minister also has an information minister who is so out of sync with the times that he is the butt of merciless jokes on the net.
And then there’s the minister in charge of religion whose idea of dialogue over the “Allah” issue is that non-Muslim groups must back down even as Najib goes on his merry way to promote 1Malaysia. Not only that, minister Datuk Jamil Khir Baharom is actually an advisor to the Malaysian Assembly of Mosque Youth (Mamy). Mamy is the group which is seeking a court order to prevent Sisters in Islam (SIS) from using “Islam” in its name and identity, as if the word was copyrighted and belonged to only a select group of Muslims. As one Twitterer remarked, why not just ban SIS from using the word “sisters” since none of its members are actually sisters.
And then of course, there is Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin who reportedly ordered for school elections to be banned.
My question is, what is Najib doing with these ministers? For all intents and purposes, they seem to be undermining his leadership and his stated vision for the nation. And if that were the case, which CEO would stand by and let his or her lieutenants undermine his or her leadership?
Unless, of course, the plan is for Najib to come out smelling like roses while his ministers continue to do the divisive and oppressive work that Malaysians have been subjected to under Umno’s dominant rule. Perhaps a game of good cop vs bad cop?
(pic of Hishammudin Hussein and Najib Razak courtesy of theSun)
Except that with the contradictions becoming more and more evident in Najib’s administration, I wonder just how our prime minister is going to continue managing the illusion that he really is the good cop.
Jacqueline Ann Surin wants an honest prime minister.
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“Trust me”… “Trust us”… so goes the text in the bubbles in two of the graphics illustrating this article…
Speaking as a very disenchanted Malaysian, deeply scarred by the years and years of broken-promises, empty talk, misdeeds and flip-flops of Dr M and Pak Lah, and what I have witnessed of PM Najib and his cabinet since they came into power about a year ago, and filtering out the not-so-printable portions, I would say, “Trust is earned, you cannot simply ask or force the rakyat to trust you.”
With the examples documented in the article, and a large number of other examples besides those, are there sufficient grounds to trust Najib and his cabinet?
For example, does the glaringly disparate treatment of The Star / China Press and Utusan inspire confidence in the fair-handedness of the government? Hisham’s kids’ gloves-handling of the cow-head protesters vs the big-stick wielded against candlelight vigil folks? The BIG questions raised about certain judges and courts by none other than respected retired judge NH Chan?
Parents spend much time and energy teaching their children to be wise to tricks of swindlers and crooks in the real-world. Educating them so they can hopefully not fall into the traps of scam artistes, confidence tricksters and slimy salespeople. I personally have spent much time and energy pointing out to my son how advertisements lie and PR promos end up being nothing more than sweet talk.
Are parents to tell their children differently where the PM and his cabinet are concerned? No, sir… trust is earned. It cannot be forced, or based on mere promises and PR-agency spin.
Mesti bikin serupa cakap lah.
The scarlet Pimple. says
It seems that *everyone* involved with the government of the last 50-odd years is suspect for wrongdoing. There is nothing wrong with the PM and his cronies; they know how to make billions in a very short time, and then move their loot out without trace. Good on them!
I would say: spot on.
What you have posted is but the truth. Actually Najib is not only clueless, but very afraid what horrors people will see in his closet , once he makes way for the 7th PM…
Ally Ooop says
Jacqueline Ann Surin wants an honest prime minister. She is going to have to wait for GE 13 for that!
Tiger YK Liang says
Makin lama makin sakit, tak lama BN/UMNO akan mati, dan PR akan jadi. “Long live Anwar”. God save the country from the dogs.
Farish A Noor says
Excellent article. Though the question has a somewhat philosophical ring to it (i.e. ‘who am I?) the query remains pertinent and is a reflection of the state of theatrical politics we have in Malaysia at the moment where posturing – especially correct posturing – seems more important that translating those public postures into public policy and action.
But underlying this is a question about the political landscape and structures of the country as well: In the context of a nation-state where power and cultural/political capital has been so dispersed, who effectively runs the country?
If there is a dilution of power to the point where there is not even a mainstream to speak of and society is so fragmented that there are so many centres of public opinion, then whoever comes to power will have to placate as many constituencies as she/he can: But in Malaysia this seems to take the government to the extreme position of trying to satisfy everyone and ending up satisfying nobody. Sad, really.
The days when the government knows best are over. Hah, konon.
“Unless, of course, the plan is for Najib to come out smelling like roses while his ministers continue to do the divisive and oppressive work that Malaysians have been subjected to under Umno’s dominant rule. Perhaps a game of good cop vs bad cop?”
You are spot on! He is the head of the whole plot. Wonder how long Malaysians can tolerate such dirty and arrogant politicians? It’s time for Malaysian to unite and kick out all race-centric politicians. It’s time for us to unite to face global competition.
You ask the right question at the right juncture, on the event of his first anniversary. Many doubted the honesty of this person way back before he was PM, and few are surprised by how [he has lost face] so [quickly]. The best explanation I can offer is that we are witnessing a crumbling regime, built on outdated modus operandi and stuffed with layer upon layer of “leaders” [who only prioritise their self-interest]. Malaysia is indeed doomed in this sense, hence the urgency of Selamatkan Malaysia now.
The day that Najib is investigated for his role in the murder of Altantuya and the ensuing trial, sodomy II, and the Perak coup d’etat will be the day I call Malaysia home.
My observation is that the whole cabinet is a bunch of goons, none of them walk the talk…
Chris Lau says
I am very sad that the administration of our government is in the hands of some very incompetent ministers and politicians. Thirty years ago, our leaders may not have been academic individuals, but at least they had integrity, honesty and honour in running the country. And that’s what matters most.
To me, Najib Razak will be the last BN Prime Minister. He has done enough damage to the country in pursuit of his own interest and lust. He has also brought great shame to Malaysia and should be thrown to jail for all his heinous crimes.
Reminds me of Jim Carey’s character in ‘Liar, Liar’.
telur dua says
In their perverted minds, lying earns them merits that pave the way to heaven.
What is wrong with the statement of “grossly unfair to state that Malaysia lacked press freedom”? Freedom to write anything regardless the consequences e.g. racial hatred? Any nuts like you can always write anything that you want. What about freedom not to hear any shit from you?
Thank you for reading The Nut Graph. You have total freedom not to read it.
Assistant News Editor
The Nut Graph
Rodney Wong says
I know this may not be a popular idea, but the one BN politician whom Najib desperately needs in his cabinet in terms of intelligence, capability and ideology is his own Youth chief, Khairy Jamaluddin. KJ may not be able to save Najib and the BN, but at the very least he will bring some quality into the cabinet.
Tan Jude says
Without merit, everything will go down the drain. From head to tail, if its managed by the brainless, Malaysia will be in a pitiful state […] With this quota system, even someone who scored an F9 in Chemistry also can enter [into public university]. Well….
Bet Najib’s pets come with auto-recharge batteries. The real Najib is out there waiting to share his pets with someone.
Fed up of trusting all these racists. Mana toleransi, instead of criticising us as pendatang asing? What’s our IC and passport for? Bukan rakyat Malaysia kah?
Neo Zypher says
Politics in Malaysia is sad…
Daasaratan J says
Besides,his statement that FIC has been abolished and EKUINAS established… what’s the use of the latter anyway?
The same cronyism will happen, just branded with a new name, that’s all. I wonder when Malaysia will be an equal society without first class/second class citizens, a clean country without ethnic politics, a country where individual rights are respected, draconian laws abolished (not amended), and where the state exists as it is suppose to be (serving the best for its population), and not creating our own corrupted and stupid version of democracy 🙂
Daasaratan J says
I believe that cabinet portfolios should be left to the experts of the specified portfolios: education system to the educationists, not the political proxies; finance and economy to the economists, etc.
Economist have never been respectful of politicians. (They believed that economy should be left to economists).
What bothers me is how detached Najib seems from his own nation. Every uttered word, press statement or media release [makes him sound] like an emotionless robot. Avoiding controversy is one thing, but he is at a total disconnect from the people. So much disagreement and dissatisfaction among us, yet his every address is frilly and lighthearted.
As one to address the tough issues, he is present only as a distant commenter. His team members may feel that they can get away with prejudice and stupidity, seeing what an enabler Najib is.
“I wonder just how our prime minister is going to continue managing the illusion that he really is the good cop.”
[…] In this benighted BN-mismanaged country, good cops are demoted or transferred to remote villages, or framed like Ramli Yusoff. [Najib] tak boleh pakai as PM, that’s for sure — unfortunately his unholy alliance with the forces of darkness forged through his ambitious spouse appears to have poisoned the psyches of at least half the population, regardless of rank or status.
The nation is in desperate need of spiritual antibiotics!
When is he going to resign?
It clearly shows that we have a set of goons running the country and there is nothing we can do about it right now. Let us patiently await the next general election and change the government for a better future.
J. Lee says
Great article, hope more Malaysians read it. And understand the real meaning of Najib’s slogan.
1Malaysia – Rakyat Didungukan, Kroni Diutamakan.